Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Reina: Liverpool Won't Be Great Until We Learn To Kill Teams Off

Pepe Reina has blamed Liverpool's failure to win the Barclays Premier League this season on their inability to kill teams off.

Liverpool finished four points adrift of champions Manchester United despite beating Alex Ferguson's team home and away, but eleven draws proved costly.

Seven of those stalemates came at Anfield as Liverpool just fell short and Reina believes the 2008-09 campaign cannot be regarded as a successful season.

'To be honest, I don't think finishing the season at second can be considered a success for us because winning the league was our target and we really thought this would happen,' admitted Reina.

'Not finishing the work off in decisive moments was a blow. We conceded too many draws, and at the end of the day it made a difference compared to Manchester United’s campaign.'

But the Spain international, recently called up for the Euro 2008 winners' Confederation Cup campaign in South Africa, believes Liverpool can take confidence for the quality of their football over the course of the season.

'Liverpool played better football than United in the league, including during our huge win at Old Trafford.

'Right now it is time to analyse what went wrong, what is the reason why we are not the champions. Then, we will correct our mistakes and start next season like a rocket!

'The squad cannot be happy with this vice-champion finish, as a trophyless season will always be a failure for The Reds.'

And Reina is confident manager Rafa Benitez can guide Liverpool to their first league crown since 1990 next season.

'The difference between United and us is very thin, just three or four points after 38 games is nothing, just a game. Our squad is capable of winning the Premier League title.'

Clock Ticking For Gerrard

The Golden Generation can hear the clock ticking against them as tournament after tournament goes by, World Cup after European Championship, yet still they don’t fulfil their once glittering promise. And Steven Gerrard admits even he has got one eye on Old Father Time now.

Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Rio Ferdinand, plus more than a few others in Fabio Capello’s squad, are well aware that South Africa 2010 might well be their last chance of a shot at the ultimate prize.

By the time Brazil 2014 comes around, there will undoubtedly be a new generation, the Gabby Agbonlahors, the Joleon Lescotts.

Old Father can be slowed, of course – David Beckham is still a key part of England plans as they go into the double-header against Kazakhstan and Andorra at the ripe old age of 34.

But Gerrard reckons Goldenballs is a one-off.

By the time Brazil comes around Gerrard will be 34, and he is not at all sure that he will be in the same kind of shape or form.

So there is no danger that Gerrard, and a significant number of this current squad, will be taking lightly what on paper are games that a multi-million-pound squad should win with ease, leaving them with a foot in the finals.

Euro 2004 slipped away from Gerrard and his team-mates; the 2006 World Cup was a massive disappointment, missing Euro 2008 an intense frustration.

Gerrard knows the opportunities for glory are running out. “This is probably the last chance for the players of my generation,” he said.

“Hopefully we will reach this World Cup. I will be 30 when it comes round, and for me it will be the last opportunity of doing well at a World Cup.

“And that is my motivation.

“I will certainly try for 2014, but you never look that far ahead as a player. For me, I am hoping to go into the next World Cup at 30 years of age, in my prime and very strong.

“I’m not sure I will be in that shape come 34. I won’t be taking any risks. I’ll be trying to get to one more World Cup.”

As for Beckham, who is in much better shape now after his stint at AC Milan, Gerrard said: “Of course he has managed to do it – but he’s Beckham, isn’t he!

“David is in fantastic condition. He’s certainly a role model for me and if I could be in his shape at his age I would love nothing better than to give the World Cup another go. You never know.

“You look at players such as Beckham, or Paolo Maldini at 40, and you think, ‘I would love to go on to that age’. I would love to play as long as I can for Liverpool and England. But I don’t look that far ahead. I’m concentrating on Kazakhstan.”

Gerrard said recently there could be no mistakes in these next two games, no slip-ups like the defeat in Northern Ireland under Sven-Goran Eriksson in the last World Cup qualifiers, the Euro 2008 qualifying defeats in Russia and Croatia under Steve McClaren, or the dismal draws in Israel and Macedonia.

There is more steel, a greater professionalism about England, Gerrard believes, which makes such catastrophes less likely.

“I am going on how we have performed of late since Fabio came in,” he said. “We are progressing well, getting stronger and becoming more of a team. We have been guilty of playing like individuals in the past but the manager is focusing a lot on the team. We’ve got the right mentality and we need to keep winning – that breeds confidence.

“The boss said he expected two goals from me in these games, so he added a little bit more pressure.

“It will be good to start them and if I can get a couple of goals and a couple of wins I’ll enjoy the three or four weeks off afterwards.”

According to Gerrard, the effect of Capello, the stern taskmaster with an unswerving vision of what he wants, is the key to 2010 success.

“Capello can make the difference. He could be the key to the side having a successful World Cup,” Gerrard said. “He is one of those managers in the handful that are the best. Managers who are that good can make the difference. They are focused, winners. And that has transferred itself already.

“But we don’t want to be carried away. There’s still a long way to go and a lot of improvement for this team to make. But I am confident we can do better than before.

“It’s difficult to say how far off we are, but its clear Spain are the benchmark. They have to be massive favourites for South Africa given how well they have been playing of late, and how well they played against us.

“It was good that we played them in that friendly [England lost 2-0 in Seville in February], to get an idea of how good they are and what we need to improve.

“We need to improve on everything. We need to be more difficult to beat, more ruthless in the final third. You can never stop improving and that goes for individuals and the team.

“We’ve got 12 months to become a force in the World Cup. That’s the challenge.”

And for Gerrard, it might well be the final one. ‘I feel strongly that this will be my last chance to do well at a World Cup’‘Capello is one of the best, and managers like that make the difference’’

Benayoun Confirms He's Received Offers To Leave Liverpool

Liverpool midfielder Yossi Benayoun has revealed that he has received offers from clubs in England and Spain following his most productive season to date for the Reds.

The Israel captain has featured prominently for the Anfield side this term, contributing nine goals in all competitions. The 29-year-old netted important winners against the likes of Real Madrid and Fulham and played a total of 32 games over the course of the season.

With first team opportunities far from guaranteed under Rafael Benitez, Benayoun admits that clubs have been in touch.

However, after registering his most satisfactory campaign to date, the former Ajax youth team player has no intention of leaving Merseyside.

He is quoted as saying by Israeli radio, "This has been the best season of my career. I have played a lot of games and scored some important goals, and I am very happy with that.

"At the moment, I am a Liverpool player, and unless something surprising happens, I will remain one. But after such a good season, I have had some offers from England and Spain. You have to give that some consideration, so there will probably be some discussions with Liverpool.

"I have had a great two years at Anfield and enjoyed every minute. I have long since accepted that, with one or two notable exceptions, there is no such thing as an automatic choice at Liverpool.

"Unless you are Steven Gerrard, you are going to sit out one or two games, but that is no problem. Stevie is exceptional, and the rest of us accept that.

"The good thing is, I have been playing more, and I hope it continues that way. To be honest, it could be Real Madrid knocking on my door, and I would still rather stay at Liverpool four more years."

Gerrard Eyes Signings Like Torres

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is eager for the club to sign players of "Fernando Torres' level" in order to win the Premier League title.

The 29-year-old believes that although Liverpool made progress last season in finishing runners up to Manchester United summer recruits are needed.

"We've finished the season without a trophy, which hurts," said Gerrard.

"How do we go to the next step? Get more players of Torres' level. He is a massive player for us."

The 25-year-old Spanish striker scored his 50th goal for the Reds on the final day of the league season and signed an improved contract with the Anfield outfit in May.

Torres also has 58 caps for his country and played a starring role when Spain won Euro 2008.

Gerrard, who believes Chelsea will be stronger next season after appointing Carlo Ancelotti as boss, insisted the title could head to Anfield for the first time since 1990 if manager Rafael Benitez is able to bring in the targets he wants.

"We are getting really close to becoming champions. Our next two or three signings as far as we are concerned are crucial to push on and try and go one better than this year," he stated.

"If we can keep Torres fit and add a little bit more quality to our squad we can become champions.

"Manchester United won the league because they had that spark coming off the bench with that little bit more strength in depth."

Pepe Reina Wants To Stay With Liverpool

Pepe Reina has moved to commit his future to Premier League club Liverpool having been linked with a return to Spanish giants Barcelona recently.

The 26-year-old goalkeeper graduated from La Blaugrana's youth team to make 30 first-team appearances between 2000 and 2002 before being sold to Villarreal.

It has been speculated that the 6ft 2in shot-stopper is after a return to the Nou Camp as last Tuesday he was quoted by Sport as saying, "Every footballer would be delighted to play for Barca. Regarding the fact that I know the club pretty well, it would please me."

However, the 13-time capped Spain international insists he is only focused on helping the Reds win their first English championship since 1990.

"My future is here, with Liverpool," Reina told Setanta.

"Obviously, transfer speculations are part of the game, especially at this period of the year, but I am not after a move to Spain, as my dream is to win the league with this football club."

The Madrid-born 'keeper also stated that he does not have a clue whether manager Rafa Benitez is planning to bring any big name signings to Anfield this summer.

"Do we need to strengthen our squad? It is not up to the players, but to the coach," Reina continued.

"Rafa Benitez is a top manager and he perfectly knows his squad. As far as the squad is concerned, we have no idea if he plans to make signings or not."

Liverpool have been linked with a host of Reina's team-mates at international level, including Valencia trio David Villa, David Silva and Raul Albiol, as well as Almeria's Alvaro Negredo.

Liverpool Launch £15m Bid For David Silva

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez has launched his bid to sign Valencia forward David Silva - but could face a battle to keep Javier Mascherano.

Spain's Euro 2008 winner Silva tops the Anfield wanted list and Valencia may have to sell cheaply because of their dire financial problems.

Liverpool are believed to have made an initial offer of £15million plus misfit forward Andriy Voronin.

But Real Madrid are waiting in the wings for Silva and also fancy midfielder Mascherano.

Real are willing to pay £18m for Mascherano and could offer ex-Manchester United defender Gabriel Heinze in the package.

Reds Target Lavezzi Hurt By Disrespectful Napoli

A fall-out between Ezequiel Lavezzi and Napoli could accelerate a summer move to Liverpool.

Lavezzi, an electric attacker who has won the hearts of all Napoli fans, has been approached by one of The Premier League’s top four according to his agent.

The player himself is happy at Napoli, but has been angered by the conduct of sporting director Pierpaolo Marino, who did not even discuss the potential move with Lavezzi.

Agent Alejandro Mazzoni is furious, and he revealed Lavezzi feels let down by the club.

Mazzoni told "There is a very real offer from a team who are playing in the Champions League and where he would earn much more than here.

"Marino has not respected anything of what he promised. I don't think that we will hear from him. I have never seen anything like this - a club receives an offer for a player and doesn't sit down at the table to discuss it.

"They didn't even ask the player for what he thought about it. I find it incredible.

"The lad wants to stay at Napoli. But for him what's more important is dignity, which is above contracts, national teams, money - above everything."

Liverpool Star Steven Gerrard Fears Ancelotti At Chelsea

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is concerned that Carlo Ancelotti's appointment as Chelsea manager will make the Merseysiders' attempt to end what will be their 20-year title drought next season much more difficult, although he concedes it will make the competition even more appealing for fans of the two clubs.

"I think it's a good appointment for Chelsea, I'm not so sure its a good one for Liverpool though, we will have to wait and see," Gerrard smiled to reporters at a press conference at England's training camp, where they are preparing for their forthcoming World Cup qualifiers against Kazakhstan and Andorra.

"He is a fantastic manager, one of the best in the world.

"We played two Champions League finals against him when he was at AC Milan, won one on a fantastic night in Istanbul, but the second time around they beat us and he was spot-on tactically in the second game."

The attacker also felt that his club boss Rafa Benitez would rise to the new challenge posed by the Italian at Stamford Bridge.

"They are both fantastic managers and it will make the Premiership even more exciting," Gerrard added.

"These managers love going head to head against each other, to test each other, so I am sure Rafa and Ancelotti are looking forward to testing themselves again."